Top 10 Mistakes Kombucha Brewers Make

top 10 mistakes kombucha brewers make

Hi! Steve here – the founder of During this article, I am going to share the top 10 mistakes kombucha brewers make when brewing kombucha… many of which I have made myself! Most importantly, I will shed some advice on how to fix these errors. But always remember: mistakes aren’t bad! They’re how you learn firsthand how to brew the best batch of kombucha.

Here at Make Booch, we value experimentation and testing things out for ourselves. I’ve personally made many horrible batches of kombucha to test crazy ideas… but sometimes those crazy ideas produce incredible kombucha. You never know until you try!

So, if you want to make some of these mistakes “on purpose”, go for it! Just make sure you’re okay with possibly losing a batch of kombucha. Alright, onto the top 10 mistakes that kombucha brewers make…

1. Using Vinegar Instead of Starter Liquid

equipment you need to brew kombucha

Many sources incorrectly recommend using vinegar instead of starter liquid.

Starter liquid is kombucha that has gone through a successful first fermentation. It’s inoculated with lots of bacteria and yeasts to help jumpstart your fermentation. This liquid is also very acidic, which helps protect your brew from mold.

Many people recommend using vinegar for its acidic properties, to help protect against mold. While this makes sense on the surface, it doesn’t pan out.

If the vinegar is unpasteurized, you are introducing tons of different microorganisms into the brew, some of which are harmful to the microorganisms in the SCOBY.

Drinking vinegar simply isn’t tasty. Use acidic kombucha starter liquid to acidify and brew kombucha. Save the vinegar for something else. It isn’t necessary here.

2. Not Using Enough Starter Liquid

Many home brewers have found that their first fermentation (F1) takes too long or never gets that tart/sour taste that kombucha should have.

If you don’t use enough starter liquid, your batch doesn’t get that kickstart it needs to get the fermentation going.

When you introduce starter liquid, you are placing tons of good bacteria and yeasts into your brew from the very start. This turns the sweet tea into kombucha relatively quickly. The starter liquid also acidifies the brew. Without it, your batch is more susceptible to mold.

Try adding some more starter liquid if your F1 is taking too long. We recommend using at least 1.5 cups per 1-gallon. The more mature the starter liquid is, the better.

3. Adding Flavors to the First Fermentation

We recommend flavoring only during the second fermentation (F2), once you remove the SCOBY.

SCOBYs feed on sugar and tea; other materials may harm their health.

Adding fruit, herbs, or spices in your first fermentation may compromise the growth of the SCOBY and put your brew at risk for mold. That being said, I personally know some brewers that use certain herbs (like leaves from the Brazilian fruit jebuticaba) during F1 to give their kombucha a floral note.

If you want to experiment with adding flavors to your first fermentation, store these SCOBYs separately and track how they perform over time after several batches. All that being said, we prefer to add flavors and carbonation during F2.


4. Using a Poor Quality SCOBY

If you are starting your first batch of kombucha, it’s extremely important to use a high-quality SCOBY. The quality of your kombucha depends on the health of this culture. If it’s been stored improperly or has come into contact with vinegar, we recommend getting another one.

5. Refrigerating the SCOBY

When SCOBYs are refrigerated, the temperature is far too low for the bacteria and yeasts in the culture to function properly.

They go dormant and stop “working”. Even if you set out the SCOBY in room temperature for a bit before using it to brew kombucha, the microorganisms might not reactivate, resulting in a weak kombucha.

Remember: kombucha is alive, and all of these living organisms prefer temperatures between 68-86ºF (20-30ºC).

6. Using the Wrong Bottles for Carbonation

During the second fermentation, the goal is to create a fizzy, flavored kombucha. In order to build carbonation, you need an airtight container. We recommend using fermentation-grade, glass flip-top bottles.

Whatever you choose, make sure your bottles can withstand high amounts of pressure. Never use recycled beer bottles (they’re usually too weak). Another good option is store-bought kombucha bottles (BPA-free plastic or glass).

Mason jars sometimes work.

Many are not truly airtight and let out gas, resulting in a flat, uncarbonated kombucha.

Others can’t stand the pressure that builds up during F2 and explode. This has happened to me and my dragonfruit kombucha went everywhere! Luckily, the bottle was in a cabinet, otherwise glass shards would have gone everywhere.

Choosing the wrong kind of bottle can be dangerous – be careful!

7. Not Chilling Bottles Before Opening

If you’ve ever opened a highly carbonated kombucha, you know that they can and will spray.

After painting my walls and ceiling with a super fruity and (apparently) overly carbonated kombucha, I have always taken precautions since. One of these is to refrigerate your bottles before opening them for the first time.

Chilling your kombucha helps keep the gas trapped in the liquid. Do yourself a favor and follow this rule to prevent a big mess. Even just 1 hour in the fridge will help.

8. Not Stirring the Brew Vessel Before Bottling

Are some of your bottles super fizzy while others are flat?

If you brewed a batch of kombucha and had inconsistent carbonation, it could be due to not stirring the kombucha in your brew vessel after removing the SCOBY.

Stirring the liquid helps evenly distribute the yeasts that collected on the bottom so that your bottles will have consistent carbonation. If you forget to stir, the bottles that received kombucha from the top of the brew vessel were probably flat, while the bottles that were filled with kombucha from the bottom were most likely super carbonated. The more yeasts you have to convert sugar to carbon dioxide, the fizzier the bottle!

9. Filtering Out Too Much Yeast Before Bottling

A lot of people prefer to drink kombucha that looks “cleaner”.

While a clearer beverage free from sediment may look prettier to some, if you filter out too many yeasts before bottling, sufficient carbonation will not build.

If you prefer to filter before bottling and notice that your kombucha keeps coming out flat, try using a coarser filter to let through more yeasts. You can always filter out sediment when pouring your bottle into a glass right before drinking.

10. Not Adding Sugar When Bottling Flavorless Kombucha

I personally love “flavorless” kombucha, AKA kombucha without extra fruit, juices, or herbs added during F2.

Not only can my tastebuds dive into the sensory notes of the tea I used, but I also find flavorless kombucha tarter and dryer (in a pleasant way) without fruits added.

While I like the way kombucha tastes straight from F1, it’s much better with bubbles. When you do a second fermentation with fruit, the yeasts have a new source of sugar to consume and turn into carbon dioxide.

If you choose to bottle kombucha without fruit or juice, you should add some sugar for the yeasts to create fizz.

11. Bonus Mistake: Using Cucumbers

Ah, my favorite mistake I’ve ever made… You know how cucumber water and cucumber basil cocktails are so refreshing in hot weather? With this logic, I thought a cucumber basil kombucha would absolutely rock!

Well… what happens to cucumbers when they spend a lot of time in vinegar? They turn in pickles. Even though I used a simple syrup made from cucumbers and not actual cucumbers, all of my bottles tasted exactly like pickle juice. Yuck!

Unless you are a fan of drinking pickle juice, stay away from cucumbers as a flavoring agent during F2.


We hope this article was helpful in identifying some common mistakes that homebrewers make. If you are still having problems with carbonation, check out our guide to carbonation. As always, feel free to contact us with any questions about the brewing process.

Happy brewing!